A trip to the nation’s capitol is an experience everyone should seek out at least once. History buffs, fine dining aficionados, art lovers, music fans, and others can all find something here to enjoy. But, how much does a trip inside the Beltway cost?
The answer to that question is hugely individual. You can spend $500 or more per person on a fine dining feast, and hundreds of dollars on a hotel in a choice neighborhood. Or, you can schedule a budget trip filled with zero cost attractions.
There are a lot of options available at every price point for every taste in travel. Our researchers have gone over many possibilities to help you figure out for yourself how much you’ll spend on a week in Washington, DC.
Average Trip to Washington, DC Cost in 2023
A week in Washington, DC costs between $3,500 and $5,000 for two people:
- Average Accommodation Cost: $350 per night
- Average Flight Cost: $250 per person
- Food, Drink & Activities: $150 per day
- Transportation: $20 per person per day
- Total Cost: $4,280
These are average prices, and costs can vary greatly depending on the time of year and what’s going on. National holidays like Independence Day or important dates like an inauguration, for instance, will ramp up hotel and flight costs because of competition.
Other times of year, you’ll find low prices just because DC is a hub in many airlines’ routes. How much you’ll spend on activities also varies a bunch.
Tickets to the symphony start at around $40 a person, but you can also find free concerts throughout the year. A guided private tour can run into the hundreds, or you can use self-guided tours to see some of the most impressive collections in the world for free.
How much you’ll spend depends on what your personal ideal trip looks like. We’ll break down the average cost category by category to help you crunch some numbers.
Washington, DC Trip Cost: Average by Item
While you go over these costs, always remember that individual choices make a huge difference in what your trip to DC will cost you.
Centrally located hotels with great views of the waterfront will typically cost more per night than more basic digs located a bit outside the city center. High end dining is going to cost more than something small and local.
The most important travel skill you can hone is self-reflection.
What sorts of experiences make a vacation memorable for you? What sorts of things do you consider essential? By trimming the experiences that aren’t important and focusing on the things you want most out of your trip, you can
Washington, DC and the surrounding areas have a wealth of choices when it comes to accommodations. There are just under 150 hotels within DC, and around 700 total in the greater DC metro area.
And this doesn’t count the B&Bs, hostels, and other choices within the area All this means that you have a wide choice of options when it comes to staying in the city.
At the frugal end is the Generator Washington DC, located in Georgetown. The National Zoo, the White House and other attractions are within walking distance. You can eat at either of the two restaurants on-site, or venture out for a meal.
Prices range from $100 to $200 a night, depending on when you book. Check several sources for rooms. Some offer stays on the same dates for a lower price than others. If you are looking for a more posh setting, consider the Hilton Washington DC National Mall at The Wharf.
This hotel is near both the Smithsonian Institute and the International Spy Museum. Many rooms have kitchenettes, which can help you save money by having a few meals in your room.
There’s a large food court at L’Enfant Plaza across the street from the hotel. Rooms range in price from around $300 to $500 per night. You can cut your costs a lot by finding a room outside the district.
Look for spots near metro stations in Falls Church, Crystal City, or Rosslyn. You can reach the Mall in about 30 minutes from there.
A room in the Hilton Gardens in Falls Church might cost around $150 a night, while you’ll probably spend around $100 for the Holiday Inn. Both are located close to the Metro, making it easy to get into DC during the day.
There are three major airports serving Washington, DC. Your first option to fly into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Flights here from New York often cost between $150 and $200.
You can get to DC from the airport using the Yellow or Blue lines on the Metro.
A second to go is flying into Baltimore Washington International. This is only about 30 miles from DC. Depending on where you start and the time of year, you can often find tickets for under $100 round trip. You can get to DC from the airport using Amtrak, which will cost around $30.
Your third option is to fly into Washington, DC fly in through Dulles, which is about 30 miles outside DC.
A flight there from JFK in New York costs between $200 and $250 round trip. You can take the Silver line on the Metro downtown from here. If you want to take a cab, be prepared to pay about $60 for the trip.
Food, Drink & Activity Costs
This is a city where you have options when it comes to food, drink, and how to spend your time.
Between free museums, free admission to many government buildings, and open air attractions like the area’s many monuments, you could schedule an entire week in DC only paying for food and drink.
Free attractions in DC include:
- The Library of Congress
- The National Gallery
- The White House
- The National Air and Space Museum
- The DC Alley Museum
This is just a small handful, with dozens more available at no charge. DC area redditors also remind visitors that merely walking around and taking it all in is a great way to spend time in DC.
The best places for sightseeing include the Wharf, the Botanical Gardens, and Rock Creek Park. If you are more into guided tours than the DIY approach, consider hop-on/hop-off tours or trolley tours of DC.
These cost anywhere from $50 to $150 per person, depending on the operator and the length of the tour. When it comes to food and drink, you have options at a ton of different price points.
As in other areas, try out different ethnic restaurants to find some of the best meals that balance cost and taste. Many DC locals recommend favorites like Ethiopian food from CherCher, Habesha Market, or Keren. The deluxe platter at CherCher will cost under $20 a person.
If the place you are staying has a fridge and a way to heat up leftovers, you can also get multiple meals out of some of your meals out. Kostos at the beloved Greek Deli makes platters that can feed you and a friend for $10 to $30.
Fine dining fans will be delighted to know that DC has around 25 restaurants that have earned Michelin stars. The Inn at Little Washington, the area’s only three-starred Michelin restaurant, offers a four-course tasting menu for just under $250 per person.
You can also save a bit by hitting the grocery store and making simple meals. Groceries in DC cost about 10% more than the national average.
DC is a hugely walkable city that also has great public transportation. If you get a hotel downtown, you are unlikely to need to rent a car. If you do decide on a car rental, expect to pay around $300 a week. You’ll also likely have to pay to park.
Plan on around $10 per hour for parking. Unlimited tickets for the Metro system, which includes both rail and buses, cost $13 a day or just under $60 for a week.
You can avoid physical tickets by downloading the app to your phone. Cabs are tightly regulated and cost around $3.50 for your first eight of a mile, then a little over $2 for every mile after.
DC is also highly bikeable and was recently ranked the fifth most bike-friendly city in the US. Capital Bikeshare offers day passes for $8 a day plus a nickel a minute with the first 45 minutes free. This comes out to about $3 an hour to rent a bike.
Things to Consider
- The National Mall is a lot bigger than it looks on TV — it covers a two-mile stretch and includes several monuments along the way. Bring along a water bottle and wear comfortable shoes.
- Check to see if you need to schedule events in advance. For instance, you can visit the White House for free, but need to request tickets between 21 and 90 days in advance.
- Monuments including those to Washington, FDR, and MLK are open to the public 24 hours a day. Touring at night or in the early morning is a great way to see them lit up without battling the crowds.
- Driving in DC is not fun. You’ll enjoy your trip more if you park the car and get around by foot, bus, and train.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the cheapest month to visit Washington DC?
The chilly winter months, when kids are in school, are typically the cheapest ones to visit Washington DC. Many people also find that weekday trips have lower hotel rates than those over weekends.
Is three days enough for Washington DC?
Washington DC is a city rich with restaurants, museums, monuments, tours, and other attractions. You could easily spend a week or more taking in all there is to see and do. If you can only spend three days, choose carefully to spend your time just on the highlights.
Is Washington DC an expensive city to visit?
It all depends. If you want fine dining and access to exclusive clubs, you’ll spend a lot of money during your trip. If you are seeking more of a balance, you can fill your days with cheap but wonderful food and free activities. The Smithsonian museums alone call fill a full week, and admission to all is free.
Is DC a walkable city?
Washington is a very compact city and highly walkable. Most of the major attractions are within a few blocks of one another. There are a large number of restaurants, cafes, and shops where you can stop to get refreshments.
Is a day trip to DC worth it?
If you are just passing through, a day trip to DC is definitely worth it. Pick one or two attractions you want to see and concentrate your time there. Don’t feel you need to see everything. As an example, you could spend multiple days just exploring the Smithsonian Museums; if you only have a few hours, pick one.
So, What Is the Average Trip Cost for Washington DC?
|🛎️ Average Accommodation Cost||$350 per night|
|✈️ Average Flight Cost||$250 per person|
|🍽️ Food, Drink & Activities||$150 per day|
|🚕 Transportation||$20 per person, per day|
|💲 Total Cost||$4,280|
A trip for two to Washington, DC will cost anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000 for two people.
Check out different options for food, entertainment, and places to stay to get the most out of your money and your trip. With a little planning, you can make your trip to the capitol an experience of a lifetime. Happy travels!